When convicted killers Danny Martin Gallegos and Juan Carlos Diaz-Arevalo escaped from the Daggett County Jail last week, family members of the victims said they didn't find out until they heard the news from the media.
Late Saturday night, Jean Balliger and Jerry Syndergaard received a call from officials with the Utah Department of Corrections as soon as the two fugitives were arrested.
"The prison called me immediately in the middle of the night and told me they had been captured. They didn't have the details yet. I was happy about (the call)," Balliger said. "My brother and I held each other and said, 'Thank you God, thank you God.' We then walked outside and told the police officers in the car. They were happy too."
In 1990, Gallegos shot and killed 18-year-old Tammy Syndergaard, Jerry's daughter and Jean's niece. Since Gallegos' escape, Jerry and Jean have been living in fear. Jerry has actually been in hiding, living at friends and relatives' houses for the past week.
Police have been parked outside Balliger's home 24-7 on the chance that Gallegos would try to seek them out.
"I'm doing better," Syndergaard said. "It's a big relief, it is. I'm gonna go home today. I can get sleep now. It was very hard on me, it was. I feel a lot better. I don't have to worry anymore. Everything is gone now. I can go on with my life, do the things I want to do."
Gallegos and Diaz-Arevalo's were captured after tying up a 72-year-old man and stealing his vehicle and leading police on a chase that ended when the suspects' tires were spiked on I-80. Both fugitives were armed by then. Gallegos was shot in the stomach, Diaz-Arevalo was caught after a short foot chase.
"I knew they'd end up with guns in their hands, I just had that feeling. It didn't surprise me," Balliger said of the violent way their escape attempt ended. "I feel sorry for the gentleman who caught tied up."
She had less sympathy, however, for Gallegos and his gunshot wound.
"I hope he feels the full effect of it. I know that's a horrible thing to say," she said..
Knowing Gallegos and the way he thinks, Balliger said she is sure that after he carjacked the vehicle, "I think they really thought they were going to make it quite a ways."
Now, both suspects will be headed back to the state prison.
"I heard from the prison that when he gets back there he will be put in maximum security and stay there, and that's good. Both he and Diaz will be put in maximum security at the Utah State Prison," she said.
Balliger said she and her brother have been very appreciative of the efforts prison officials and local police have made to make them feel safe following the escape.
"We were frightened of Danny. We were really frightened," Balliger said. "When we heard they were caught, that was a big relief...a big relief off both of our shoulders."
Syndergaard said he's also happy, and is ready to relax again."I'm going to grab some money and I'm going to head off to Wendover and celebrate," he said with a chuckle, likely the first indication of a smile on his face in a week.
E-mail: [email protected]